Friday, January 04, 2008

People get ready

I'm a registered Republican from the Tom McCall, Mark Hatfield, and Bob Packwood (good Bob not bad Bob) wing of the party. I voted for Reagan, though that was the last time voted Republican in a presidential election. I've kept my Republican registration in the hopes that someone would come along who could represent the values of liberty and justice. I've just about given up on that one, though I respect McCain as an individual.
Last night I watched Obama's victory speech in Iowa. I was all alone in my classroom. It was late in the evening. I stood there with my arms folded and I said to myself as he began, "Ok Obama, let's see what you've got."
Let me say that I'll confess to having a soft spot for anyone with a real feel for language. He's got the gift. In this class of candidates he is without peer when it comes to shaping a message in front of a live audience. But having said all that, what I most remember about listening to him last night was the way he made me feel. I felt proud to see this man represent so clearly and so honorably America and american values. I felt a little thrill in my bones that I haven't felt since...well, I'm not sure I have felt it since I was a registered voter. That thrill came, I think from a sense that he was speaking to just to his supporters in Iowa, nor just to his party; rather, he seemed to be talking to us.
It's been a long time since I felt viscerally that sense of us. I'm willing to appear a bit foolish to those who fancy themselves as realists and just say that buying into Obama's message of hope is not naive, it may well be the only way out of the mess we're in. Something important and essential has been lost that needs recovering.

Listen to what he says about hope. It's not the moon-eyed variety of hope that we associate with the 60's; it's not the hucksterish populism of class warfare; it's not impersonal ideology either. He strikes me as someone who knows how to roll up his sleeves and work hard while keeping his eyes locked firmly on those ideals that should define us and bind us to one another.
I know there's still a long way to go, but his speech last night was for me a memorable moment.

I'm officially off the sidelines. People get ready.


ps- one year ago I was in France teaching at Lycee Nord Bassin. I remember my colleagues there being intrigued by the phenomenon of a woman and an african-american dueling for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. When I told them that I could imagine Americans voting for a black man for president, I saw mostly surprised and skeptical expressions. One can hardly fault them for that reaction, since it was not unknown in american circles at that time either. I'm pleased that somehow we as a nation and a society still maybe have to the capacity to surprise others and ourselves in a good way.


Anonymous erin said...

He really is an incredible speaker, but the fact that he's actually saying something gives me hope!

2:38 PM  

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